David Aaron's Short Memory at 55 Bar, NYC
New York City
January 19, 2006
Jazz is more than a musical language that can be learned in school. It is more than playing "this" scale over "that" chord when it is "this" part of a progression to get "that" sound. Jazz is an attitude tied to the creative desire to communicate directly to the listener through music.
Having recently reviewed Cynical Rat Bastard, finding it fascinating music that is pure fun and deep at the same time, I really wanted to see the group live. Aaron and his band did not disappoint. They are full of attitude and the joy of performing, plus they all are top notch musicians.
55 Bar was packed for the early (7 PM) show. This was a CD release gig, so yes there were friends and family present, but many in the crowd were there to listen, and Aaron had a nice raport with them.
Since the tracks of Cynical Rat Bastard are really connected in the way a movie score would be to create a flow through time, I was surprised that Aaron chose to not do the obvious thing and play the album straight through. However, the longer tracks of the album can stand by themselves, and so the set moved along well anyway.
Aaron's music is an interesting combination of the accessible (meaning there is a melody or motive, usually with rhythm) combined with the unpredictable, the quirky and and, well, the cynical. A fireplug of a guy, Aaron usually gets a big, gruff sound from his sax that easily filled the room. When he really gets into his solos he rocks, bobs and weaves in abandon. Most of the time, he would introduce the tune's theme, play a solo as the trio locked in behind him, and then move to the side as the members of the trio took solos.
Greg Ritchie (drums), was always busy, with a concentrated look on his face as he felt his inner metronome while continually driving the music, all the time listening and reacting to Wigton (bass). Wigton, who is quite tall, and plays the bass with the pin pulled way out, gets a very clear, sharp tone and effortlessly moved all over the bass, providing a harmonic basis which is made up of melodic figures. Rhythmically, he linked with Ritchie and together they cooked. When either of them took a solo, the energy did not drop one bit.
Rob Ritchie (guitar), who is Greg's brother, plays totally against form. He accompanies sparsely, using unfamiliar chord forms, single notes and moving clusters that manage to fit with the sound and really help define the "cynical" sound. His solos are very much the same as he spits out sharp shards of notes, bends, clusters, and yes, the occasional run. This is done, mind you, while he chews gum and looks bored. He let his guard down once when Wigton did sometime particularly nice.
The longish set flew by as most of the tunes from Cynical Rat Bastard were played, along with a few that were recorded but which did not make it on the record.
If you like your jazz on the accessible bleeding edge, and can smile and tap your foot at the same time, then Short Memory is a band to hear. I look forward in great anticipation to their future.
Personnel: David Aaron: tenor saxophone; Rob Ritchie: guitar; Greg Ritchie: drums; Matt Wigton: bass.